Welcome to this issue of the Sophia Project News, dedicated to the work of the Sophia Centre at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and all our associated activities.
The Sophia Centre continues to expand its activities at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, which are centred around four strands: teaching, research, publication and public outreach, the latter particularly through our annual conference. Read about our upcoming conference, 'Astrology as Art', below.
Dr Nicholas Campion
Frances Clynes on the nature of space
The Sacred Geography module of the MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology is taught every year in the September-December semester. The module is lead by Anthony Thorley and lectures are also given by Bernadette Brady, Nick Campion and Frances Clynes. The agenda of the module is for 'An investigation into the concept of "sacred geography", interpreted in a broad sense to include sacred geography, space, topography, landscapes and religious cosmologies" and "An examination of the theories of sacred and profane space and ideas of whether the sacred is inherent in space, or is projected on to it". Each week contains material on the different views of space/place, from Aristotle's notion of proper place and the concept of sacred space which looks at the writing of Durkheim and Eliade among others, to Bender's study of contested space. These theories about the nature of space did not originate in the modern era, but have a history that dates back to antiquity. This article will take a brief look at the history of space.
Debates about the nature of space stretch back to ancient Greece. Plato wrote in the Timaeus that space exists always and cannot be destroyed. Citing the Timaeus, Aristotle claimed that Plato saw space and matter as the same, but he, Aristotle, saw place or space as separate from body.
When Descartes wrote his Principles of Philosophy in 1644 his hypotheses concerning space and body were a continuation of this debate, which had been active through the intervening centuries. He argued that extension, by which he meant anything that has more than one dimension, constitutes the nature of space, therefore, space and matter are the same thing.
He wrote, 'Space or internal place, and the corporeal substance which is comprised in it, are not different in reality, but merely in the mode in which they are wont to be conceived by us.' Opposing Aristotle, he rejected the idea of empty space, arguing that, "the extension in length, breadth, and depth which constitutes the space occupied by a body, is exactly the same as that which constitutes the body". Therefore, there cannot exist a space separate from body, since all spatial extension simply is body.
Newton (1642-1727) who saw space as being distinct from body, wrote of absolute space in order to distinguish it from the ways in which it is measured, which he called relative space. Relative space is the popular space that we perceive in relation to our bodies, while absolute space is true, fixed and mathematical space. Although Newton's ideas were challenged, most notably by Leibniz who argued for the relativity of space, according to Max Jammer, who wrote about the history of the theory of space, it was Newton's views which would prevail until they were overturned by Einstein.
The modern debates about space tend to describe different ways of looking at space but in general, reject the dualism of earlier theorists, which is usually seen as reflecting the dualistic world view of post-Descartes Western culture. According to Lefebvre, Newton's and Descartes' mathematical views of space brought about a vision of space, that lasted up to the middle of the twentieth century, as being empty and having a strictly geometrical meaning. This, he stated, brought about a dualism, a deep rift between mathematics and reality both physical and social. In an attempt to address this problem and bridge that gap, he proposed a triad, a unitary theory of space that allowed three different views of it: physical space, mental space and social space. Physical space he called 'perceived space' or the space created by nature. Mental space is the space of scientists or urban planners and he termed this 'conceived space'. Social space is 'lived space' and is composed of physical and mental space. It is all encompassing - it is all space. Like Lefebvre, Soja attempted to develop an alternative to the dualistic concept of space. He coined the term 'Thirdspace' or what he called 'an-other' space, which he viewed as being the same as Lefebvre's 'Social Space'. Both were lived and socially created, concrete and abstract at the same time, the habitus of social practices, and a composite of all spaces. They were designed to break down the dichotomy in the modern view of space, representing a different way of thinking about space.
As stated above, debates about the nature of space date back to ancient Greece and continue to the present day, testifying to the enduring fascination that philosophers have had with space. Perhaps this is best expressed by Jammer, who observed, 'Space is the subject, especially in modern philosophy, of an extensive metaphysical and epistemological literature. From Descartes to Alexander and Whitehead almost every philosopher has made his theory of space one of the cornerstones of his system.'
 Plato, Timeaus, ed. John M. Cooper and D.S. Hutchinson, trans. Donald J. Zeyl, Plato: Complete Works (Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997), 52 b.
 Aristotle, Physics, trans. R. P. Hardie and R. K. Gaye.Book 4, classics.mit.edu/Aristotle [Accessed 01/08/2014]
 Rene Descartes, Principles of Philosophy (1644), II.X.
 Descartes, Principles: II.X.
 Descartes, Principles: II.XVI.
 Isaac Newton, "General Scholium," in The Mathematical principles of natural philosophy (London: 1729), II.
 Max Jammer, Concepts of Space: The History of Theories of Space in Physics (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1954), p. 125.
 Henri Lefebvre, The production of space (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991), p. 1.
 Lefebvre, Production: pp. 2-3.
 Lefebvre, Production: pp. 11-12.
 Edward W. Soja, Thirdspace (Oxford and Cambridge Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, 1996), p. 11.
 Soja, Thirdspace: p. 11.
 Jammer, Concepts of Space: The History of Theories of Space in Physics: 1.
Descartes, Rene. Principles of Philosophy 1644.
Jammer, Max. Concepts of Space: The History of Theories of Space in Physics. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1954.
Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991.
Newton, Isaac. "General Scholium." In The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. London, 1729.
Plato. "Timeaus." In Plato: Complete Works, edited by John M. Cooper and D.S. Hutchinson. Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, 1997.
Soja, Edward W. Thirdspace. Oxford and Cambridge Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.
All illustrations Free Access
1. School of Athens
2. Rene Descartes
3. Isaac Newton
Let's keep the connection going!
The MAC 4A Steering Committee have been active this past quarter in setting up foundation stones for the workings of the Alumni Association. To this end, Faye Cossar has been instrumental in sending out a questionnaire that many of you returned. And for which we thank you. Your responses have given us a good idea of what you want from an Alumni Association - and many thanks to Faye for devising the questionnaire.
Acting on many of those suggestions, we are currently building the website. We are aiming for this to be a place where you can find free online resources for continuing your research. The website will also contain a list of past MA dissertation titles and areas of research, and current research projects of Alumni. It will also be a place where any current conference Call For Papers can be posted, along with details and links of upcoming conferences that may be of interest to you. It will also be an area you can update your details and add your contact email, if you so wish, so others can get in touch. Finally, it will contain a forum for ongoing discussion and debate. Let's keep the connection going!
MA Summer School exhibition 2015
In celebration of the International Year of Light, the MA Summer School exhibition this year will feature the photographs from 2014 graduate Gaia Somasca and Eva Young, winner of the INSPIRE Photography competition 'Making the Invisible, Visible'. Their photographs will be displayed in varying sizes from postcard to poster at the Summer School and during the Sophia Centre conference 'Astrology As Art: Representation and Practice'.
Come and enjoy these magnificent images, which are for sale with profits donated to the new Alumni Association. Gaia and Eva will be present to talk about what inspired them to take these photographs.
'Sustainability In Plain Sight'. © Eva Young
'NYC Moonrise'. © Gaia Somasca
Where are they now?
Figure 1: Judith Levy (front row left standing next to Patrick Curry) at her graduation in 2006
Judith Levy joined the Cultural Astronomy and Astrology MA programme in 2004 when it was still in its early days. As an astrologer, businesswoman and entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience as a Retail CEO and in business coaching and development, she currently leads a CEO Peer Advisory Board in the Southwest UK for Vistage International, a global business organization that provides private advisory groups for MDs, executives and business owners. Judith also provides mentoring, coaching support and consultancy services for entrepreneurs and business leaders, particularly women, through her consultancy firm Global Business Guidance. Judith is also in collaboration with her husband Howard Parker through 'Eros and Psyche', a consultancy that offers relationship coaching based in experiential astrology.
Kate Namous talks to Judith Levy about the impact of the MA on her life and work, ten years on from graduation.
KN: Why did you do the MA?
JL: At the time, I'd been a semi-professional astrologer for nearly twenty years, doing readings and teaching astrology, although it was never my main job. And here I was living in Oxford, where the Bodleian Library still has doors that say 'school of natural philosophy' and the astrologer and alchemist Ashmole was one of the greatest figures in public life in the seventeenth century, but all that was thrown out of the establishment during the Enlightenment; so I thought if the study of the cultural nature of cosmology is coming back into academia, I want in, too. Another reason is that I wanted there to be an astrology community in which I could be active. Doing the MA turned out to be really enjoyable - it was intellectually stimulating and socially amazing, I met some wonderful people who I still see regularly.
KN: What modules did you find most interesting?
JL: For me, the most interesting module was the history of astrology. I was able to study astrology's history and roots, as well as other forms of cultural astrology, like medieval astrology. I also saw what people went through over the ages to preserve the knowledge and practices-some were burnt at the stake. It made me realize that astrology is a precious thing that we need to keep alive. It was a marvelous experience to be studying with such an interesting group of people; the conversations in the pub (The Globe in Newton Saint Loe) afterwards were fantastic. I'd never had conversations about astrology at that level: it was groundbreaking.
KN: How did the MA affect your attitude to astrology?
JL: Again it was the history-learning about the Babylonian tradition and how Vedic and Western astrology came from the same roots before the practices started to diverge in late antiquity. And later all this was translated into Latin, so scholars across Europe were all reading the same texts and knowledge could be shared. I learned astrology in Spain in Spanish, and there is a division between the Spanish and English speaking world in astrology, because we don't have a lingua franca as we did in the Middle Ages. For me, with a Jewish background, I am particularly interested in history pertaining to the Babylonians and Chaldeans and understanding connections and symbolism such as the twelve tribes and twelve signs of the zodiac.
KN: What did your dissertation focus on?
JL: My dissertation was on the cultural interface between the worlds of business and astrology. This involved qualitative research into how business astrologers work within the business environment and how business professionals evaluate and make use of astrological methodologies within different aspects of their organization. In short, it was about people, profit and power.
KN: What doors have opened since doing the MA?
JL: It didn't have a huge impact on my career, but it improved my self-esteem and my ability to write and undertake evidence-based rigorous research; it also sharpened up my intellect. The MA increased my interest in astrology, adding more depth and knowledge and improving my grasp of history and context and culture. In my business consultancy and coaching work, I'm now developing a system called 'Business Wellbeing' that uses astrology to look at how to balance the four elements within a business.
KN: What books are you reading now?
JL: 'Saturn, Fatal Attraction' by Adam Smith. And I'm always reading Stephen Arroyo, because I use that in my work.
KN: Any new projects in the pipeline?
JL: My main focus at the moment is Vistage International and how that is blossoming and allowing me to mentor business people and help develop their life and leadership skills. My new venture, Eros and Psyche, focuses on personal relationships-how to find love and make it last. Part of this is about developing new paradigms in how we relate to each other.
KN: Many thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Judith, and for your involvement with the Alumni Association of the MA. We wish you all the best with your business and consultancy ventures.
Fig 2: Judith. CEO of High and Mighty for the publication Retail Week around 2005, the year of her graduation
Fig 3: The most recent photo taken by Judith's husband Howard Parker
A Biography of William Lilly
The Man Who Saw The Future
Catherine Blackledge: A Biography of William Lily: The Man Who Saw The Future. (2015, Watkins. An imprint of Watkins Media Ltd; ISBN: 978-1-78028-8000-0), 229 PP, £16.99. www.watkins.com
William Lilly is clearly one of the more influential characters of seventeenth-century England: influential directly within both governmental and radical circles, and more widely in popular culture through his predictions, interpretations of prophecy, and handbook on the craft of astrology. Although appearing in every major work on seventeenth-century English astrology, he has few extant works of scholarship specifically dedicated to him. Derek Parker's Familiar To All: William Lilly and Astrology in the Seventeenth Century (1975) and more recently Ann Geneva's Astrology and the Seventeenth-century Mind: William Lilly and the Language of the Stars (Manchester University Press, 1995) have both focused on his work and to varying degrees on the detailed theoretics of astrology; whether medical, personal, or cryptographical. This biography instead concentrates on his working, social and political life, as lived through an especially fascinating period in English history - and is all the richer for it.
The biography's writing style, which Owen Davies describes in his foreword as 'an imaginative and sometimes speculative approach to her subject', is a joy to read: emphasising scene-setting and a flair for dramatic reveals, eschewing academic citation and generally avoiding wading into historiographical debates. The Sources and Notes at the end operate somewhere between end-note citation and broader further reading, and this biography bounds from one scene in the thoroughly eventful life of William Lilly to another.
Blackledge's admiration for Lilly is obvious, especially for his commitment to astrology. Yet also obvious is the author's own familiarity and proficiency with astrological techniques, conventions, and practices, which she manages to explicate to the reader with the minimum of complicated talk of essential dignities and so on, and with a careful sense of why and how such astrological activity was important. There is no astrological theory for theory's sake in this biography. Blackledge's biography exhibits both informed comprehension of his art, and attention to building out his world, in political and social - especially interpersonal - contexts. Blackledge emphasises Lilly's interest in democratising astrological knowledge, defending the art of the stars at the very time it was losing respectability in learned elite circles.
There is a clear effort to orient readers who might be new to early modern history, and especially its politics and practices. Plenty of direct modern comparisons are drawn: Lilly is said to be the 'nation's first media celebrity'; almanacs are 'the original personal organisers', and their predictions (especially the more apocalyptic ones, such as Black Monday) the first media events; even Tommaso Campanella's ritual space designed for Pope Urban VIII to counteract malign astral influences, an 'astrological safehouse'.
There are a few historiographical interjections, notably the refutation that the Parliamentary military campaign was 'shapeless'; pointing out rather that they were awaiting a particular astrological election - an election that culminated at Naseby. Blackledge follows Ann Geneva's careful political cryptography, picking out details that highlighted Lilly's expertise and discretion, such as his calculation of and speculations upon the king's nativity.However, a significant point of departure with Geneva - who has attempted to posit a discrete separation between astrology (and astrologers) and magic - comes from Blackledge's wider familiarity with the period's occult speculation and experimentation. The attention to the expressly magical activities of Lilly and his cohorts is both refreshing and edifying. It is an important contribution to the scholarship of Lilly and seventeenth-century astrology to hear of his books of spirits, Mosiacall rods, anti-witchcraft countermeasures, and sigils, alongside careful and clearly practiced analysis of his decumbitures and horary questions.
Overall, this book is full of the kind of human depth and warmth one desires from an historical biography: from accounts of the somewhat theatrical (such as William Pool's versified scatological revenge upon Justice of the Peace Sir Thomas Jay), to the thoroughly quotidian (such as listing Lilly's chores whilst in service to Gilbert Wright). And history should have room for the human. Such a biographical account is an important lively and welcome contribution to the study of the history, magic and people of this period.
Alexander Cummins is an historian of early modern magic and culture, currently writing up doctoral thesis on emotions and the occult in 17th Century England. He has written,The Starry Rubric: Seventeenth-century English Astrology and Magic,2012. Hadean Press and contributes to journals on topics ranging from early modern amulets to modern-day millenarianism, and from botany and the grimoires to the theology of Doctor Who.
Catherine Blackledge is speaking at Watkins bookshop in London on 30 April at 6.30 (No ticket required), and also the Sophia Centre conference in Bath 27-28 June, and the Astrological Association conference 11-14 September.
The Occult World
Christopher Partridge's edited volume, The Occult World, is the latest edition to Routledge's expanding 'World of' series which now includes around twenty-eight volumes, with a further seven forthcoming. Partridge, who is Professor of Religious Studies at Lancaster University in the UK, has put together an extensive collection of seventy three short chapters over 759 pages, with an emphasis on the modern period. This is a sensible decision as earlier periods are well dealt with elsewhere, while the modern world has been generally neglected. The chapters are short, but all cover key topics and include bibliographies and references for further study. Partridge has compiled an essential and valuable reference which is available, as is the coming fashion, as an e book as well as hard copy.
Sophia Centre Conference 2015
University of Wales Trinity Saint David
The Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture,
School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology
Annual Sophia Centre Conference 27-28 June 2015
Venue: Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution, Bath, England
Professor Hilary Carey, University of Bristol. Professor of Imperial & Religious History, University of Bristol
Dr Spike Bucklow, Senior Research Scientist and Teacher of Theory at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge
Astrology is often described as an art. However, the implications of this statement are rarely, if ever, discussed. At the same time the zodiac, stars and planets have often been a source of inspiration for artists. Yet the meaning of what is portrayed, and the intent of the artist, are rarely considered. In what sense is astrology an art, and in what ways does it become the subject of artistic representation?
This academic conference will consider the relationship between astrology and art. The Proceedings will be published by the Sophia Centre Press.
See here for booking and for the full list of speakers.
Errata: We published an article in the last newsletter entitled 'Thick, Deep, Rich: Researching Contemporary Cosmologies.' This article was an in-depth description of the Researching Contemporary Cosmologies module on which Bernadette Brady teaches. Bernadette wrote that article but her name was not credited, so this is notice that she was its author and can be contacted if anyone is particularly interested in learning more about the topic.
Apologies Bernadette. Pam Armstrong. Newsletter Ed.'
Next issue: 23rd March 2015Browse previous issues here.
The SPNews welcomes articles, features, reviews, ideas, art work and photography.
The Ed's email is always open.
Pam Armstrong Newsletter Ed'.